LeBron James was frustrated. Tyronn Lue was more frustrated on the sidelines. Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy were blaming replay for everything but global warming on the broadcast. Cavaliers fans were apoplectic.
Twice in the final 1:20 of the Warriors win over the Cavaliers on Christmas Day, LeBron James tried to drive on Kevin Durant in isolation, both times LeBron thought he was fouled, but the referee didn’t see it that way. Coming away with no points on those possessions sealed the Cavaliers fate, a 99-92 loss.
Tuesday, the NBA confirmed that Durant fouled LeBron both times — once with 1:12 and once with :25 on the clock. The league admits the officials missed the calls.
That admission and $5 will get you a latte at Starbucks. It’s transparent of the league to acknowledge this, but it changes nothing. The end of the game does not get replayed, the outcome remains the same.
Those calls did not cost Cleveland the game. Cleveland’s bench cost them this game shooting a collective 6-of-26 and getting outplayed all afternoon (the bench has been improved this season, but they were bad on Christmas). The Cavaliers starting backcourt (Jose Calderon and J.R. Smith) were a combined 1-of-9 from the floor. As a team Cleveland shot 31.8 percent overall, they were just 7-of-22 at the rim and 3-of-14 from the midrange. That is what cost them the game — hit more of those shots and it’s out of the officials’ hands at the end. If a team puts itself in a position where a close call could decide everything, it has to live with referee mistakes. Welcome to basketball.
Still, those calls sting.
Consider it fuel for the rematch (maybe in the Finals, again).